Top 5 highest-earning footballers since Saudi Arabia takeover

Ronaldo is the highest paid athlete for a record sixth time in a decade.

Top 5 highest-earning footballers since Saudi Arabia takeover

Forbes' the world’s top 5 highest-paid football players 2023. (Via SB Nation, Arab Nation & AFP)

The Saudi football takeover has surprised the entire football world. European football stars joining the Saudi Pro League and the Suaid clubs have caused a lot of excitement in the football community. This global shift in Middle Eastern football started with Cristiano Ronaldo moving to Al Nassr in the Saudi Pro League. The huge money and bonuses these players are getting are astonishing.

Now, in 2023, Forbes declared Cristiano Ronaldo the highest-paid athlete. With the influx of money and endorsements, Saudi Arabian football is gaining a lot of attention and so there are 3 out of 5 players in this list who are earning wild owing to the Arabian salaries. Here’s a list of the top 5 highest-paid footballers after the Saudi takeover.

Also read: Cristiano Ronaldo becomes the world’s highest-paid football athlete earning over $260 million in 2023

Karim Benzema

Ballon d’Or winner, Karim Benzema has moved to Saudi Arabia after having a spectacular stint at the iconic Spanish league Giants, Real Madrid.

Karim Benzema.
Karim Benzema. (Source: ESPN)

The 35-year-old French superstar has signed a three-year deal with Al Ittihad for a staggering $106 million, making him one of the three Saudi Pro League players occupying the top 5 places in this list.

Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe, the French star, is still PSG’s top player. After a whole another summer gone by with him being linked to Real Madrid, Mbappe stayed put at the French capital.

Kylian Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe (via GOAL)

SInce then, he has been scoring goals, providing assists and has drawn the fans to back him yet against. Now, Forbes report that the young star is earning about $110 million in 2023, making him the highest-earning European-based football player. Though, he dropped from first place, last year, to fourth on the list this year.


The newest addition to Saudi football is Neymar Jr. from the Ligue 1 giants, Paris Saint Germain. The 31-year-old Brazillian holds the most expensive transfer deal ever made for a footballer when he joined the French capital side from Barcelona.

Neymar Jr.
Neymar Jr. (Source: BBC)

Now, he is tied to a contract with Al-Hilal for 2 years and will be expected to earn more than $300 million in wages. Certainly so, Neymar Jr. through his masterclasses performances captivated the attention of the Saudi clubs and managers.

Lionel Messi

To attract the 36-year-old Argentine to Major League Soccer, Lionel Messi‘s deal with Inter Miami reportedly includes a share of money from league partners Adidas and Apple TV, along with an opportunity to buy a piece of Inter Miami when he retires.

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi (via Planet Football)

Alongside his yearly off-field earnings of $70 million, which rose with Argentina’s 2022 World Cup win and his move to the United States, Messi now ranks second with a total projected income of $135 million. This achievement marks Messi as the first MLS player in the top ten earners since David Beckham in 2012. (H/T: Forbes)

Cristiano Ronaldo

At the top of the list with a staggering estimated earning of $260 million is Cristiano Ronaldo. The 38-year-old Portuguese maestro joined Al Nassr in January 2023 followed by an underwhelming and controversial tenure at Manchester United.

Cristiano Ronaldo.
Cristiano Ronaldo. (Source: B/R Football)

Al Nassr agreed to sign the football icon on a hefty contract. His Saudi signing led to a majority of the other players moving to the Saudi Pro League. A majority of Ronaldo’s earnings are based on his off-the-pitch income sources like brand endorsements, deals, luxury hotels, and his own merchandise.

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